Legendary Scottish outfit Ecurie Ecosse returned to full-time top-level sportscar racing in superb style on Easter Monday (9th April) as they steered their Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 to victory in the season-opening British GT Championship event at Oulton Park.
Outright winners in the 1956 and ‘57 Le Mans 24 Hours, the illustrious team has largely lain dormant on the international scene since running Vauxhall’s title-winning British Touring Car Championship effort in 1995.
But on Monday they marked their highly anticipated return to competition with victory as drivers Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant powered the team’s BMW to a dramatic last gasp win.
Torrential rain greeted the drivers for the season-opening race. McCaig took the start from third on the 25-car grid before easing into second spot on lap four. Bryant assumed the controls at mid-point in the 60-minute race and quickly began hounding the leading United Autosports Audi R8 LMS of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell. As the cars entered the final lap the Audi slowed dramatically after appearing to run out of fuel, sparking emotional celebrations in the Ecurie Ecosse garage.
Bryant started race two from eighth on the grid but it was quickly evident that the team’s Z4 was struggling with major front-end handling problems, causing the car to lap some three seconds off its earlier pace. The issue was later traced to a rare block tread failure on the front right tyre that had been deteriorating throughout the race and was partly deconstructed by the flag.
Without this a top five finish was within reach but the issue, coupled with an additional 15 second pit handicap following their earlier race win, saw the Scottish team denied another points haul. Nevertheless McCaig and Bryant achieved a 10th place finish, leaving them third overall in the championship.
Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “I'm delighted to have won first time out and was thoroughly impressed by the outstanding performance Alasdair put in on his debut. British GT is a very competitive championship and this result is testament to all the hard work invested by Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell Motorsport over the winter. I'm looking forward to building on this with more strong finishes next time out at Nurburgring.”
Alasdair McCaig, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “Our aim was to come away from Oulton Park with a strong haul of points but to get a win on our British GT debut is something else. We now need to look ahead to the next round at the Nurburgring where we’ll be seeking another strong finish and more championship points.”
Mark Lemmer, Barwell Motorsport Managing Director : “Everyone has put a great deal of hard work into this result and it was capped by a great performance from the drivers and team. We couldn’t have begun the season in better style and I am confident that this will be the first of many strong weekends for us with the BMW Z4 GT3.”
Joern Geermann, BMW Motorsport: “We could not have asked for a better start in the British GT Championship and hope that many more race victories will follow.”
The team left Oulton Park on Monday evening to begin their trip to Italian venue Monza, where they will contest the first round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Former BMW Scholarship Driver Ollie Millroy will join Andrew Smith and Joe Twyman in tackling a 50+ GT3 grid in Ecurie Ecosse’s BMW Z4 on Sunday 15th April.
Andrew Smith, Ecurie Ecosse driver: “I’m delighted with the start we’ve made to our 2012 programme, which is the culmination of a monumental effort by Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell. Ollie, Joe and myself are highly focused on securing another strong result this weekend in Monza. The competition in Blancpain is fierce to say the least, but it’s a long race and we’re confident our pace will be good.”
Ecurie Ecosse still has highly attractive sponsorship opportunities available for 2012. Further information is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.